Dreyfus: A Family Affair, 1789-1945

Michael Burns, Author HarperCollins Publishers $30 (576p) ISBN 978-0-06-016366-2
This superlative, deeply moving biography and family history throws a floodlight on the human dimensions of the Dreyfus affair. Falsely accused of military espionage and arrested for treason in 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), an Alsatian Jew, battled insomnia, total isolation, malaria and suicidal impulses on Devil's Island. His wife, Lucie, a loyal partner in a marriage of equals, attempted to accompany him during his deportation. His brother Mathieu, who was instrumental in securing a presidential pardon, at one point consulted a clairvoyant peasant woman whose visions helped him deduce that Alfred's court-martial in closed session had been a sham. Burns, who teaches history at Mount Holyoke, traces six generations of the Dreyfus family, from Alfred's great-grandfather Abraham, a kosher butcher during the French Revolution, to the scions who joined the French Resistance, fought fascism and aided victims of Nazism. His gripping narrative puts the affair and the family's history in the context of the centuries-old blight of French anti-Semitism. Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-06-092345-7
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